Understanding Alimony

by Miod and Company

Alimony is, in basic terms, payments made from one party of a divorce to the other in order to allow the receiving party to continue to maintain a lifestyle like the one they had as a married person. It is a form of financial support, not to be confused with child support, which is payment intended specifically for the care and keeping of the couple’s children. Alimony is for the ex-spouse.

There are multiple factors involved in the calculations of alimony payments. These include:

  • The financial needs and abilities of the parties
  • The duration of the union
  • The standard of living maintained by the couple during the marriage, and the probability that each party can reasonably maintain such a standard in divorce
  • The earning capacity, education, vocational skills, and employability of both parties
  • The health of each party
  • The possibility of the party seeking alimony payments finding the capacity to maintain their lifestyle on their own wherewithal, which is influenced by:
    • The duration of time necessary to get training or education necessary for the receiving party to find comparable employment and income
    • The availability of said training and employment
    • The financial opportunities available to this party
  • The distribution of property between the parties
  • The possibility of income from investment of assets
  • Any other factor the court determines relevant

So you can see, there’s a lot to work with. Essentially, though, it boils down to what each party already has, plus what they could have in the future. Alimony can also be modified if there is a significant change to one party’s income or earning ability or based on other factors.

There are a few types of alimony, and how many of them are recognized by the court system depends on the state of jurisdiction. In California, for example, there are only two recognized types of alimony. These are:

  1. Pedente Lite Alimony — This type of alimony is temporary (pedente lite, in Latin, means “pending the litigation”). It is intended to help the supported spouse during the course of the divorce.
  2. Permanent Alimony — This type of alimony is typically awarded only for long-term marriages. It is intended to be, well, permanent, ending only upon the death of either spouse.

There are other types of alimony, but these two are the most common.

Alimony is not awarded in all divorce cases, but it’s important to understand it when it comes up. It is more likely in higher-income couples and in marriages that lasted longer, though it can be a factor in almost any divorce case. Consult your local laws for specific understandings of what alimony calculations entail for any case you work on.

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